Saturday, 1 February 2014

Stephen Jones – Saxa Vord 1987 to 89

Stephen Jones was at Saxa from Jul 87 to June 89. He was an Aerospace Systems Operator (Trade Group 12) and was on A Watch, working shifts in the R101. The photo below shows R8246242 SAC Jones - nickname ‘Chesh’ (after the Cheshire Cat), at the back of guard room and next to Tornado block, in his No1 Uniform. He was ready for the 1988 AOCs Parade:


The AOC was AVM RH Palin but Unfortunately “Chesh” didn’t make the official photos! He has pointed out, however, that the Parade Commander made a bit of an error. In the following photo the troops are at “Slope Arms” whereas the command “Order Arms” should have been given (rifle butt grounded by the right foot!).

Operationally it was a very busy time during his tour. There were significant numbers of Soviet penetrations of the UK Air Defence Region, mainly by Bears with a few Badgers, Coots and Mays (the last intercept of a Bison being in Nov 1983). It was also a period when Station callouts and exercises were frequent.  Some anecdotes from Stephen relating to some of the events he experienced are below:
“Security was tight with our CO. We were doing at least one exercise a month and had to have 75% manning on the island at all times.  I wanted to go to the Viking boat burning in Lerwick and had a car, but since one lad was already on leave I couldn’t go as that would have left the shift with 60% manning.  We once had a Station callout (the siren was right outside the window of my block) and when the exercise was complete I got on the last 4 tonner to leave the Ops Site.  We were waiting to go when the Taceval team turned up.  We were ordered to head down to the domestic site.  Once there we told everyone not to bother getting changed.  The siren went off about 15 minutes later-the MT bus was already waiting foe us.   I think we had 75% manning in 15 minutes a new record time.

 During another exercise a stand too was issued. I ran to my position, which was the sangar on the NW side of the site. As I approached the sangar the guards ran out and there was a load explosion – the thunder flash blew me off my feet with surprise.

 On one exercise the CO ordered all the rations to be taken from the top floor of Admiralty Building (3 years war rations I think) down the corridor, past the police post and left just inside the blast door.  Halfway through the job the CO ordered NBC state 1.  We had to carry on in respirators - I nearly fainted.  Five minutes after we finished moving the rations he called Endex and ordered us to take them all back again.
Working shifts you easily get days mixed up.  One day this lad on our watch kept on all day saying its Wednesday and we must remember to do siren checks.  At the appropriate time we started the station tests. Shortly afterwards the watch officer puts his head round the corner and asked what we were doing.  ‘It’s Wednesday Sir - station siren checks.’  ‘OK’ he replied and disappeared back round the corner only to reappear a few moments later ‘its Tuesday’.  We just looked at each other and both said ‘----’.  The watch officer said ‘Just say end of test and if anyone calls say the engineers thought they had cut the cable and we had to do a check’ he said.  A few minutes later the SWO called asked what was going on. We told him the agreed story – don’t know if he ever found out the truth.”
He was at the Ops Site when a fairly famous incident involving a bus load of tourists took place.
“I was a guard at the sangar near the fire section.  A tourist coach came up the hill but I couldn't stop it.  It went up past me and up to the radar heads I thought he would be back in a minute reversing as there is little room to turn up there.  He was soon back, but driving normally.  I called the Police post and they said they are always doing it even though they have been told not to.  When we finished our shift and went back to the mess it was all abuzz.  It turned out that the bus had arrived at the main gate of the domestic site asking if some elderly passenger could use the toilet.  Instead of guarding them into the guard room one at the time the guy on duty opened the barrier and let the bus on to the camp.  A short time later the CO arrived wondering what all these elderly people were doing wandering about the station and to discover a big tourist bus parked in his slot.  He was not a happy bunny”.
Off duty Stephen kept fairly active. The A Watch Commander (in black in the middle of the next photo) organized a 1½ mile run. Whilst it was all smiles for Stephen and his friends before the start they were not so happy by the end!

He also took part in the Up Unst Run in 1988 and received his certificate for participating:

A picture of a couple of the runners passing the Policeman’s house, opposite SHE, in 1988 follows:
In December 1988 the lads of A Watch were entertained to a Christmas meal by their Watch Commander in his Quarter. Stephen took the next photo of the lads during the occasion.

As with all Units there was a need to carry out general station duties – in my experience with watch keepers this usual meant they had to be carried out in off-duty time.  It used to cause some annoyance when day-workers were released from their normal duties – a thing not normally possible for operational crews. Stephen kept a note of some of the extra tasks he had to carry out – as you will see, a considerable amount of extra work:

28 Jul 87                      COs inspection
19 Aug 87                     Move to Tornado Block]
24 Aug 87                     Arrivals Course (great on birthday)
25 – 27 Sep 87             Ground defence training
29 Sep 87                     GPMG training
9 Oct 87                        Range
28-29 Oct 87               Training days
19 Dec 87                     Duty Runner
19 Dec 87                     Duty runner

18 Jan 88                     Fire training
20 Jan 88                     Duty airman
28 Jan 88                     Block Inspection
15 Feb 88                     Training day
22 Mar 88                    Block inspection
23 Mar 88                    Duty airman
5 Apr 88                       CO - No1 Inspection
25 Apr 88                    AOC Rehearsal
3 May 88                     AOCs rehearsal
11 May 88                    AOC s- Air Vice Marshall Palin  11 group
23 May 88                   Fire training
27 May 88                   Duty runner
27 Jun 88                     Range
18 Jul 88                      Fire training
20 Jul 88                      Duty airman
22 Aug 88                    Barb wire detail
23 Aug 88                    GDT
5 Sep 88                      Training
23 Sep 88                    Ops site guard 08:00 to 00:01
24 Sep 88                    Duty airman
19 Nov 88                    Duty airman
26 Nov 88                    Ops site guard
13 Jan 89                     Duty airman
21 Jan 89                     Block inspection
25 Jan 89                     Station ground defence day
27 Jan 89                     Block inspection

Stephen has also kept a few views of Shetland

Finally, Stephen has managed to retain a decent version of the Unit “ZAP” (sticker) from the period – all the other copies I have seen have been in poor condition.

I’m grateful to Stephen for allowing us to share some of his recollections